Easter Courage: An Easter message from LTSP
There are moments when it feels like Matthew’s story of the resurrection – the account many of us heard read in church this morning – is almost working at cross purposes. On the one hand, the message delivered by the angels is clear, succinct and, above all, comforting: “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised.” At the same time, however, Matthew also paints what is perhaps the most alarming and, quite frankly, awe-inspiring picture of the resurrection, complete with an earthquake and rather fearsome angel descending from the heavens to unseal the grave. No wonder the guards at the tomb faint with fear and the women are terrified.
For this reason, the angel first speaks words of comfort and courage: “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised.” Of course, it doesn’t stop there. After the words of courage, comes a command: “Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.”
And they do. They come and see and then run and tell, and Matthew describes their obedience as a mixture of “fear and joy.”
I wonder if that isn’t also our reality as well. For we also live lives tinged by both fear and joy. Fear of what may happen to our children in a dangerous world; joy at the blessing they are to us and, we pray, they will be to the world. Fear of whether we will have a job in the year to come; joy at the colleagues that surround us. Fear about the fate of a loved one struggling with illness; joy in the gift that person has been to us. Fear about the future amid problems both national and global; joy in the present moment surrounded by those we love. Or to come a bit closer to home, fear about the future of our seminary and the church it serves; joy in our call to proclaim the gospel and train women and men for lives of faithful ministry.
I think it’s striking that the announcement of resurrection didn’t take away all the fear these first disciples experienced. Rather, it enabled them to keep faith amid their fears, to do their duty and share their good news in spite of their anxiety. This is the very definition of courage. And, I would argue, courage is precisely what Easter is about. For while some preach that coming to faith in Christ should smooth all the rough places of life and still the tremors of this world, I believe that the gospel gives us the ability to keep our feet amid the tremors and enables us not just to persevere but even to flourish when life is difficult.
“Do not be afraid.” This charge – repeated by Jesus when he encounters the women – gives us insight into the very nature of our lives in this world. For there is, indeed, much to fear in our mortal lives. And yet the resurrection of Christ creates the possibility for joy and hope and courage and so much more. Why? Because it changes everything. In the resurrection, you see, we have God’s promise that life is stronger than death, that love is greater than hate, that mercy overcomes judgment, and that all the sufferings and difficulties of this life are transient – real and palpable and sometimes painful in our present experience, for sure, but they do not have the last word and do not represent the final reality.
Fear and joy, despair and hope, doubt and faith, these are the two sides of our lives in this world. But in the end, we have heard the resurrection promise that joy, hope, and faith will ultimately prevail. It’s a powerful message and for this reason is at the core of all we do, certainly on Easter and throughout the year. As we celebrate once again the resurrection of our Lord, please know how grateful I am for your support of the mission and ministry of LTSP (and the emerging ULS) and even more for your witness to the hope and courage that is ours in Christ.
Blessings in the name of our Risen Lord,
David Lose, President